1. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Active Member

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    Mary Sue: Bad Character Writing and Real World Evidence.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Xboxlover, Aug 19, 2017.

    Bare with me here I this is kind of long and I'm stuck. How do you avoid creating this type of cliche character people will hate. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue and the http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AntiSue
    The "Mary Sue / Marty Stu" There are plenty of articles out there saying what not to do but all of the characters in popular culture display like this trope. It sounds like to me more a hater thing. I'm mean look at Batman and the Xmen! Hero's are supposed to not be normal in these genre's it's what defined them above everyone else. That and a great backstory and personality.

    So some background here before I go any further.
    I've been doing research and trying to polish my characters up as much as possible. By doing so I've run into many articles all of which suggest I'm damaging my writing... I have a well-developed backstory and personality for all my characters but I can't help but feel the more 3 dimensional I try for the flatter they are according to these articles. And if not flat according to the articles lame and cliched.

    I do realize some cliches are well hated and some are well-loved, while others have a mixed bag response. I also realize that it's unavoidable to write with out a cliche or two or few, and I know depending on how it's executed can either kill readership or forever endear itself to the readers.

    To be honest. I'm using my writing as a way to learn and grow from my own personal problems and understand who I am as a person. I have been noticing a trend with some of my characters, they tend to reflect people I know who've had serious problems in their lives. I'm trying to display mental illnesses, abuse, and self-esteem issues. I personally have experience in these categories as well. (Birds of a feather flock together.) (I know I have the capacity to portray it well, having lived through my own problems, going to therapy to understand them, and being around others with similar problems.) Now I know there is a huge stigma against these kinds of characters because I see a lot of hate. (Reasons vary quite a bit.) But what if a well-developed character could tell a story that could inspire people to overcome their own problems.

    Some of the articles say people have a hard time writing mental illness and depicting it well, which I understand the concern there. Others say it's damaging to a character, but you want your characters to have flaws to overcome or damn them. Make them real and relatable.

    Okay, one of my characters is based on a friend of mine growing up. Despite having average traits common hair and eye color smaller average chest size. She had the whole beauty is a curse attraction going on. I'm mean let's face it she was hot and she was a fricken 7. People loved her for multiple reasons. (People were drawn to her for her personality, and bad people were drawn to her too. They just wanted to use her and get laid, even if she didn't do these things or did.) She was a great friend she was very sweet and likable, friendly, courageous and would do the right thing even despite her personal short comings. She was an honest person and loyal to a fault. She would render service to others and be kind to those who were less fortunate. She stood up for the nerds and the geeks. She suffered abandonment issues which would isolate her from time to time and coincided with her depression, but could be clingy as well at other times depending on the turmoil in her life. She was but independent in her own ways as well as very co-dependent. (I understand how that can work because she and I had a lot in common, we forged a strong bond through our pain.) Felt extreme guilt and shame underneath for actions done to her, or her own. (The cry for attention actions knowing wrong, feeling damned anyway and doing it. The dreaded guilt cycle.) The only difference was that she started drinking and doing drugs and partying things got out of control and she died. I don't want to present her death in my story I want to present her as overcoming her problems in the end. A beacon of light. I'm overcoming my own problems still and never gave into that ugly side of life. So if anything the character is kind of a mix of both of us. Personality wise she was a good person but struggled with depression, self-esteem issues, that stemmed from abuse and abandonment. (She suffered self-esteem issues and even if people saw her as beautiful, she hated herself and saw herself as ugly. Even if she didn't say it all the time.) This comes from self-esteem and confidence problems. The reason I bring this up is that I loved her and she was a real person with a lot of problems. ("REAL PERSON" running away from problems but wanted to be around people at the same time. The dilemma of fearing rejection and the fear of being alone.)

    Read some of the mary su articles out there and a lot of people condemn and damn these traits. The reason I found out about a mary su is that I used to watch a lot of anime growing up and heard the term a lot. I looked it up because I was confused. I started to understand why people hated these characters. (I had friends that wrote fanfictions with self-inserts... It's not my thing, but again I'm not dissing it. I always wrote my own things, and I don't think fanfiction is a bad thing because they are still developing skills in writing. I would critique them and help beta read for them when needed.)

    Here is another example: I don't have time to dig up every article I've read on character development do's and don'ts.

    To me, it sounds like she's ripping on Twilight. I'm not a fan of Stephanie's works but I'm not going to dis people for liking her either. I'm into fantasy personally and sci-fi. I've never been into romance. I find myself wanting to include it in my story for character development though. I would feel remiss not use such a great plot tool for story telling.

    While watching this video my husband commented and said those are all characters he's seen in books before and they were executed/created well by many an author. He stated that these were traits he'd seen in real life women as well and that whether or not they were character flaws, there are people like these in the real-world. (My husband used to be a huge tramp and slept with tons of women so he honestly would know.) He also commented that she came across as if she was pulling the louder I am the more correct I am tactic, and further agreed with me that it was targeting twilight and that it was unprofessional for an author to attack another.

    On one last comment from my husband. They mention flat characters in here that have no personality. My husband says there are real people like that out in the real world as well, and I have to agree with him. He said what if that's what the author wanted?

    Not condemning her here. She has some great advice as well. I'm not here to start a fight please keep things fair and don't add to hostilities.

    But with everything I've read online for a real life person with some added fantasy traits for a fantasy story turns quickly into a mary su.... I'm like really confused.
    I don't want people to hate her, I want them to pity her, love her for who she is, and see that they can learn from her and make their own happiness by overcoming their own problems.


    I feel like I'm having to defend what I'm doing, which is killing my confidence. Am I just reading into things way too much? Is reading about writing damaging my potential?
     
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  2. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Active Member

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    Ahhh, Jenna, I like what she has to say, along with Ellen Brock and Vivien Reise(?).
    I look at the Mary Sue character as a character that cannot grow. It already knows everything, and can do it all. Mary Sue characters don't have conflict, and if they do, it is an odd addition. Without conflict, you can't grow and change.
    Batman is an extremely flawed character, as are the X-Men in the original comics.

    But, who wants to read about them?
     
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  3. Stormburn

    Stormburn Senior Member

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    Look, the longer I watched the video the more I wished for a gas stove in my hotel room. The impression I get from your post is that you have made one hell of an effort to write a thought out character. But, that said, trying to judge how well constructed a character is out of context of the story is like looking an an airplane that is sitting on the ground and wondering how well it flies. Ask people who you trust their opinion to be constructive to take a look at your work. Great post, by the way.
    Godspeed!
     
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  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I feel as if you may be misunderstanding what you're reading. For one thing, when you refer to "traits" it sounds like you're assuming that a character with ANY of these traits is a Mary Sue. But that;s never been how I understand the concept. There is no single trait, or two or three or four traits, that make a character a Mary Sue. And, really, it's not that (bag of traits)=(Mary Sue). It's more that the phenomenon known as a Mary Sue becomes more likely if a particular set of traits is present.
     
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  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Ignore the articles. The way you wrote about your friend in the first three/four sentences was enough for me, it was tender and sincere, you had me, so work on that. Don't worry about confidence.

    Well done, good luck writer :)
     
  6. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Active Member

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    I understand that as well but it also talks about the abundance of the traits or problems.
    Thanks, guys.
     
  7. Trish

    Trish Lost.. got any breadcrumbs I can follow? Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't watch the video, or read the rest of the post, because, honestly, there's no reason for me to. What I've quoted above is all I need to know. You're gold. You're good. Write what you're planning on writing, write it well, and send me a link when you're done because I know what you're talking about. I know this girl. I was/am this girl. Don't worry about all that shit, write what you know to be real. If you need somebody to bounce things off of, message me. Seriously, just run with what you're doing.
     
  8. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Active Member

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    This is typically what a Mary Sue character is-

    • Beauty: Usually with exotic features
    • Brave: Mary Sue is a brave, brave woman. She may have (slight) moments of fear, but her quick wit and awesome skills bring her the confidence she needs to prevail.
    • Kind: Mary Sue is kind and compassionate. Many notable acts of kindness.
    • Tragic backstory: Despite being raised with no parents, in object poverty, or with no limbs, Mary Sue beat the odds and overcame her disadvantages to become powerful or successful, while making very few (if any) enemies.
    • Intelligence: Mary Sue is so smart everyone respects her opinion.
    • Likable: No one hates or dislikes Mary Sue except misguided jealous people.
    • Accepted: If Mary Sue is an outcast in the beginning, she becomes accepted by everyone by the end.
    • Nothing to worry about: Mary Sue won’t starve and she won’t be homeless. Good things come to Mary Sue. Always.
    • Triumph in the end: Mary Sue wins over evil. Every. Single. Time.
    • Special abilities: While most Mary Sues can do anything, each Mary Sue has exceptional, almost super hero-like talent in at least one or two areas.

    I got that here-
    http://booksandchardonnay.com/notable-mary-sues-literature/

    Mary Sue characters are usually marketed toward young consumers, and are a feature of a lot of fanfic.
    That page has examples from literature. Disney princesses are listed, and that is what I usually think of.
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    It was always my understanding (and I may have got it wrong) but a Mary Sue character isn't so much 'nice' as 'lucky.' Lucky in the sense that she has everything, can do everything, nothing fazes her, she can accomplish anything she sets out to do more easily than anybody else, etc. In other words, a Mary Sue doesn't encounter any problems she can't solve. From a story point of view, that makes a dull character.

    The way you describe your beloved friend, she had a lot of problems, worked very hard to overcome them, gave a lot to other people, and in the end, she didn't make it herself. A person like her, who tries her best when dealt a hard hand, is not a Mary Sue. When you're writing, just try not to make things come too easy for your characters, and you won't have anything to worry about. You won't be creating Mary Sues.
     
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  10. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Active Member

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    Could this work in a fantasy setting as a heroic character?
    The setting takes a tact on ascension to godhood and the philosophy of striving to better oneself.
    The whole series is supposed to be a huge philosophical mind job. I want to do this but not press an agenda and tell a story. While I aim to entertain and create fantasy, I want it to be well grounded. I want to write something dark to make you feel fear and sadness, but also want to include light happy inspirational moments, humor to break the tension, add tension where necessary. I want to portray life from a mortal aspect and immortal aspect (which isn't really immortal but longer mortality.) The troubles of individual lives in a grand scheme of things, the trouble of society as a whole and how problems affect everyone.
    I wanted to explore what if's.
    A good series that I can think of is Avatar the Last Airbender. I want to be able to do my story justice and hit the nail on the head like they did. Using everything to create a good story. I loved how it made me laugh, cry, its dark and serious moments, relatable characters and the list goes on.


    Thank you.

    Sounds good I will try my hardest to do this justice.
     
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  11. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Active Member

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    These are not all necessarily bad characters though. Some of these are literary artworks and known for being some of the greatest works to be made. Why else would some of these be used in schools for teaching English or Writing?

    Little Women was a good book.
    ETA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Women
     
  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Remember, the list is purely a matter of opinion.

    Little Women was a good book, but I do have to agree that Beth was too perfect to be interesting. I suspect--without any evidence--that that was a trope of the time, the "too good to live" character that was allowed to exist long enough for us to cry when she dies, but had no other real purpose.

    I definitely wouldn't agree that Elizabeth Bennett was a Mary Sue; she didn't have the featureless, flavorless nature that that term communicates to me, and I don't think that she was actually all that perfect by the standards of the time--though again I don't have evidence for that statement.

    Mary Ingalls, yeah, I found her featureless and boring. I think that was her purpose in that book; she was the perfect sister that the protagonist, Laura compared herself against.

    Again, it's all a matter of opinion.
     
  13. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    As of late, this whole Mary Sue business has been flaring up like a teenager with a bad case of acne; let's put this baby to rest.

    -

    There are two characters that come to mind when I think of Mary Sue: Forrest Gump, and Jay Gatsby.

    Forrest Gump: Ping-pong Champion, War-Hero, Responsible for Nixon's downfall, owned a Billion dollar Shrimp company etc.

    Jay Gatsby: War-Hero, throw massive parties, friends with the mob,

    There is a difference between the two. Forrest Gump is a story about a Mary Sue. The Great Gatsby is about a man WANTING to be a Mary Sue.

    -

    My point is if you want to avoid the whole Mary-Sue thing (Which honestly could be an interesting Character Trope to explore if you have a story where it could work) then ask yourself 'Is my character like Forrest Gump or Gatsby in the sense they have a list of accomplishments longer than Santa's list?'

    If the answer is no, you don't have a Mary-Sue.
     
  14. Trish

    Trish Lost.. got any breadcrumbs I can follow? Supporter Contributor

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    Of course it can. It will work in any setting you want it to, because if the character is real, the rest is so much easier to care about.
     
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  15. Trish

    Trish Lost.. got any breadcrumbs I can follow? Supporter Contributor

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    I like your optimism, but 6 months from now it'll flare right back up again. It never dies. ;)
     
  16. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Active Member

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    I actually don't understand why people seem to have such a hate on for Mary Sues. I get why the term exists and agree that having one perfect OP protagonist wearing a set of Plot Armour +50 could kill the tension and make for a dull character, but if you like the character and your readers like the character, what does it matter whether or not they meet the technical definition. I really like Rey in The Force Awakens and she is basically the definition of a Mary Sue, but for the story it works.
     
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  17. Kallisto

    Kallisto Active Member

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  18. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Active Member

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    I agree with you as well. I'd actually like to purposefully write one for fun one of these days. I think the trope has some value, and people shouldn't be so quick to toss it. Technically speaking here, practically every superhero character out there could technically fit this definition. Sorry for double words. :/ People don't like hearing it and will defend it to the teeth. In my honest opinion and I don't want to offend anyone here. Is that it comes down to gender. In popular culture, it seems 9 out 10 posts I've seen it's the female characters that get knocked. I think it comes down to the truth of female nature: The fact that a lot of women are jealous and it boils down to the I wish I was her, or she's not me... Females tend to knock other females down, hold grudges, and let's face it gossip their heads off. Men, they have a disagreement get into a physical altercation and have a beer later together. Once again this is my opinion. I also think it boils down to jealousy of the writer verse the person who wishes they could write. (Not trying to be arrogant here. Have experience with this in art.) People would come to me asking me to train/teach them in art and they wouldn't ever put forth the effort. I would get how come you are so good questions. I would tell them it's taken me years of practice and they never like hearing that. They always wanted the crash course with the talent overnight or in a week, and would get angry at me saying I wasn't a good teacher because they lacked patience. I had to quit offering to teach people. I also had to do the same with sewing... Again not to be arrogant sounding. Just speaking truth from my life. If I need improvement I'm willing to put the time into it and look forward to growing in this field.
     
  19. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Active Member

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    What if I took the tact on the character, that she never changed, and life, therefore, bit her in the ass as a result of it or she missed out on opportunities? A character not changing their ways isn't a bad thing necessarily. Look at the bad boy friend I'll fix them types. Not everyone is willing to be fixed or fix themselves. Could be cautionary.

    ETA: I guess it's still some form of progression though even if it's a digression. The relapse progress does well for a while then relapse. Not necessarily drugs.
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Eh...I think that the supreme Mary Sue was Wesley Crusher. I'm not jealous of Wesley Crusher. :)
     
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  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You seem to be assuming that your character is a "Mary Sue." I'm not clear why.
     
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  22. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Active Member

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    The anti sue trope or suetiful all along...

    My concern is dying some yes. I'm gaining confidence and such but I can't help but feel like when you try to walk away from bad writing sometimes it gets you still which I am expecting. Obviously especially when you're a novice writer. I'm ranking myself novice here honestly. I haven't written much since high school so it's like starting all over again. So I'm humbly expecting huge hick ups.
     
  23. Stormburn

    Stormburn Senior Member

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    Again, from what you said in your original post I believe you have a wonderful character. I'm in the same boat you are; someone who hasn't written much since high school. I've been writing now, daily, for several years and have arrived at the point where I have an idea of how much I need to learn to become a writer.
    Oddly enough, my WIP may mirror yours. The story takes place in a fantasy setting with the MC being a sort of a Mary Sue on the surface but is revealed to be deeply troubled. Sometimes I wonder if such drama belongs in a fantasy setting, but, hey, the character and her friends are coming from my heart as well as my mind. I think of the beautiful people in my life who battle to slog through each day with issues that are heartbreaking. Everyone deserves to be a star, and, in the end, its those troubled, beautiful souls who are the stars of my WIP. So, I strongly encourage you to put the characters in your book that you want to be a star.
    Godspeed!
     
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  24. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I got more game than Parker Brothers...

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    I wouldn't sweat it too much. Gary Stu gets more hatorade than he deserves. So long as he isn't so super awesome that he insults the subject material, you can use a well-endowed character to your advantage. Tropes aren't necessarily bad--they wouldn't be tropes if they didn't work. Tropes do good work so long as your writing isn't overly trope-y. Still, the Gary Stu will get you into a buttload of trouble if you keep asking the reader to invest in him when its clear from the text that he can't be beaten. You can write around that by not drawing attention to Gary or Mary's awesomeness.

    I always preferred the term "special snowflake" to Gary Stu anyway... something the screams "look how unique I am!"
     
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  25. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Active Member

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    Thanks again guys. I'll keep sloshing forward through the snow! :D
     

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